William Morris "Bill" Lawry, AM (born 11 February 1937) is a former cricketer who played for Victoria and Australia. He captained Australia in 25 Tests, winning nine, losing eight and drawing eight, and led Australia in the inaugural One Day International match, played in 1971. An opening batsman with a reputation for resolute defence, he had the ability to spend long periods of time at the crease. As his career progressed, he wound back his strokeplay to the point where he was described by an English jounalist as, "the corpse with pads on". Lawry was unceremoniously dumped as captain and player for the final Test of the 1970–71 Ashes series in Australia. Lawry's sacking is regarded as one of the more distasteful incidents in Australian cricket history — he was not informed personally of the selectors' decision before the decision was first broadcast on radio and he only became aware of his fate when confronted by reporters.
A few months before turning nineteen, Lawry made his debut for Victoria, against Western Australia at the Junction Oval in the 1955–56 season. He played in all of Victoria's matches in 1956–57, but was dropped completely in 1957–58 and for half of the following season. Recalled for Victoria's match against the touring English cricket team in 1958–59, he scored 24 and 22. His batting form remained modest until he hit 266 (after being dropped on 12) against New South Wales at Sydney in 1960–61, shortly before the Australian selectors chose the team for the 1961 Ashes tour.
Lawry was sent to England as a back up opening batsman for the incumbent pair of Colin McDonald and Bob Simpson, who had performed well against the pace attack of the West Indies during the previous season and were expected to be retained for the Tests. Adapting quickly to English pitches, Lawry made his first century on the tour against Surrey at The Oval, which defeated Australia in the corresponding match on Australia's previous tour in 1956. This time, Lawry seized the initiative in an innings described by Wisden as, "one of the most significant of the whole season" and "a flowering of technique and temperament". Batting for four and a half hours, Lawry scored 165, reaching his century in three hours. He compiled 101 runs between lunch and tea, producing an array of powerful drives through the off side, while his hooking prompted Denis Compton to compare him to Don Bradman. Lawry followed up with a century against Cambridge University. 104 on his first appearance at Lord's, against Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC). Continuing this form in the second innings, Lawry hit 84 and combined with Simpson (92*) to take Australia to the victory target.
Consequently, the selectors moved Simpson down the order to number six to accommodate Lawry for his Test debut in First Test at Edgbaston. In a drawn match, he made a steady 57 in Australia's only innings of 9/516. His innings in the Second Test at Lord's—dubbed the "Battle of the Ridge"—was described by Wisden as, "an indomitable effort of sheer graft under severe pressure with the ball flying about". Taking bruising blows from the hostile pace bowling of Fred Trueman and Brian Statham on a pitch with irregular bounce due to the presence of a ridge, Lawry reached 32 at stumps on the first day after England were bowled out for 206. The following day, Australia moved from 4/111 at lunch to 5/183 when Peter Burge was dismissed for 46 with Lawry on 99. Lawry resisted for six hours, to register his maiden Test century of 130, while no other batsman on either side passed 66. It helped Australia to take a match-winning first innings lead, eventually leaving a target in the double figures for the second innings. It was his fifth hundred of the tour, giving him over a thousand runs inside two months. Lawry then scored a pair of 28s as England squared the series at 1–1 in the Third Test at Headingley. In the Fourth Test at Old Trafford, Lawry played a part of innings that was crucial in Australia winning the series. After making 74 in the first innings, he and Simpson put on an opening partnership of 113 in the second, the first century opening partnership of the series. Lawry went on to make 102, helping to set a match winning target before skittling England on the final afternoon. Despite making a duck in the final Test at The Oval, Lawry topped the batting aggregates with 2,019 runs at 61.18 in first-class matches and 420 at 52.50 in five Tests. He struck the most centuries with nine. Only Bradman and Neil Harvey had made over two thousand runs in an English tour since the Second World War. As a result, he was named as one of the Wisden Cricketers of the Year in 1962.
1963–64 saw a tour to Australia by South Africa. Lawry began well with 43 and 87* in a drawn First Test overshadowed by the no-balling of Ian Meckiff. He then made his first century on home soil with 157 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground to help Australia take a 1–0 lead. He made another half century in the Third Test in Sydney, and ended the series with 496 runs a 55.11. The series was highlighted by new ball battles between Lawry and South African pace spearhead Peter Pollock. Pollock attempted to repeatedly bounce Lawry out, but removed Lawry in only three of ten innings. Pollock later nominated Lawry as one of the two hardest openers that he had ever bowled to.
1964 saw Lawry return to England, the venue of his first Test series. After failing to pass 20 in the first two matches, he scored 78 in the Third Test at Headingley which Australia won to take a 1–0 series lead. With Australia only needing a draw in the Fourth Test at Old Trafford to retain the Ashes, Lawry scored 106, combining in a double century opening stand with Simpson which laid the platform for a total of 8/656 in over two days, as Australia batted England out of the match. The match only reached the second over of Australia's second innings, leading Wisden to note "a bad taste was left in the mouth of the cricket enthusiasts. Lawry scored 119 after combining in an opening stand of 244 with Simpson in the Fourth Test in Adelaide to help level the series with an innings victory, and a further 108 in a 212 run stand with Bob Cowper in the Fifth Test helped ensure the match was drawn and the Ashes retained. Lawry scored 592 runs at 84.58. Including the tour matches for Victoria against England, Lawry scored 979 runs against the touring side, occupying the crease for over 41 hours in a typically attritional style.
Lawry continued his marathon season in the final of the Victorian Premier Cricket season for Northcote. The final was played only on Saturday's and Lawry told his team-mates to simply hold up their end. He made 282 in a total of 9/514, batting for three consecutive Saturdays as Northcote eventually wore down Essendon to claim the title.
He was less successful in 1966–67 as Australia toured South Africa and lost the five Test series 3–1. Lawry's best score was 98 in the First Test in Johannesburg, which ended in defeat. Hs aggregated 296 runs at 29.6.
Lawry's first full series in command was the 1968 Ashes tour of England. He scored 81 in the First Test as Australia took a 1–0 lead. After failing in the next two drawn Tests, Lawry missed the Fourth Test having sustained a broken finger in the previous Test. In his absence, Barry Jarman led the team and adopted ultra-defensive tactics at the orders of Lawry, playing for a draw that guaranteed Australia would retain the Ashes. Lawry returned in the final Fifth Test at The Oval to score 135 in seven and a half hours in a losing effort. The innings was the first time that Lawry attracted the derisive description of a "corpse with pads on". He finished the series with 270 runs at 38.57.
The five Test series against the West Indies at home in 1968–69 saw the peak of Lawry's career as a batsman. He made 109 in the First Test in Brisbane but was unable to prevent defeat, as Australia trailed in a series for the first time under his leadership. He responded with 205 in the Second Test at Melbourne, forcing an innings victory to square the series. After the Third Test saw a victory, Lawry scored 62 and 89 in a drawn Fourth Test in Adelaide. With the series at 2-1 leading into the Fifth Test in Sydney, Lawry struck 151 in the first innings to set up a 3–1 series win. His 667 runs at 83.38 was the highest series aggregate of his career. Lawry had expected a pace onslaught after Australia's last trip to the Caribbean had ended in defeat, but Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith had began to slow down, taking their wickets at an average over 40.
The tour started with a stop in Ceylon, where the Australians played three one-day matches and an unofficial Test.
The First Test in Bombay saw Australia take lead of 74 runs on the first innings. The match was marred by a controversial umpiring decision on the fourth day when Srinivas Venkataraghavan was given out caught behind after missing the ball by roughly a foot. Most of the Australian players were dissatisfied with the events, feeling that the batsman had been robbed. In the meantime, the public address system declared that Lawry and his men had cheated. It resulted in crowd rioting and the crowd started to shout "Lawry, Lawry, Lawry". The spectators lit fires and threw projectiles at the Australians after Lawry refused to adjourn the match, contrary to police advice that warned them to run for their lives. During the chaos, Johnny Gleeson was hit in the head by a bottle, and when the teams left the field at the end of the Indian innings, Lawry was hit by a flying chair. Australia went on to win by eight wickets after the Indians fell for 137, sparking off another riot. Former Indian captain Lala Amarnath defended Lawry, saying that he was not responsible for the umpiring error. Ajit Wadekar, who played in the match, said that "With a little graciousness, the unfortunate episode…could have been avoided". He said that an Australian win was inevitable, so Lawry should have adjourned the game and defused the riot. In another incident, Lawry threw his baggy green cap on the ground after the umpires adjourned play for the luncheon interval; Lawry felt that there was time for one more over.
After a draw in the Second Test in Kanpur, the teams proceeded to Delhi for the Third Test. Australia batted first and took a 73-run lead on a spinning surface. In the second innings, Lawry became the sixth Australian to carry the bat in Tests, making an unbeaten 49 as Australia collapsed for 107 against Bishan Singh Bedi and Erapalli Prasanna. Australia were confident that the Indians would not be able to make the target of 181 on a deteriorating pitch after 19 wickets had fallen for 167 on the second day. However, following the rest day, Indian comfortably won the match by seven wickets to square the series. Australian spinner Ashley Mallett claimed that India's Ashok Mankad later admitted that the hosts had switched the pitches on the rest day so they could bat on a favourable pitch.
During the Fourth Test at Eden Gardens in Calcutta, a surge in the demand for tickets caused a last day stampede, which resulted in running battles between fans and police, leaving six dead and hundred injured. This was exacerbated by protests by the Communist Party of India (CPI), a major political party in West Bengal, against Australian batsman Doug Walters. Walters had been conscripted during the Vietnam War period, although he was never sent to Vietnam to fight against the communist Vietcong. Nevertheless, CPI activists erected posters across the city claiming that Walters had killed women and children. Around 10,000 communists picketed the Australian hotel and some eventually broke in and vandalised it.
On the field, there were more riots following a second innings Indian batting collapse. Spectators on the top deck of the stands threw rocks, prompting those in the lower stands to invade the playing arena. This interrupted Australia's pursuit of 39 runs for victory, which was achieved without the loss of a wicket. During the stoppage, Lawry had an on-field altercation with a local photographer who had run onto the ground, pushing the pressman away with his bat. The Indian newspapers reported that Lawry had knocked the man over and then struck him with his bat. Lawry and his batting partner Keith Stackpole claimed that he had tried to shepherd the photographer from the playing area, who then stumbled and fell.
In any case, the crowd responded by stoning the Australian team bus as they left the ground following their victory. Following the incident, the Indian media began to wear black armbands and incited the populace against the Australians.
Even in the non-international tour matches, Lawry's team could not escape controversy. The next match against South Zone at Bangalore generated more allegations of cheating. Australia's reserve wicketkeeper Ray Jordon claimed that Alan Connolly had bowled Prasanna. Prasanna disagreed but eventually walked after Jordon repeatedly insisted that he was out. The Australians then had an altercation in the dressing room after some members accused Jordon of cheating, asserting that the delivery had missed the stumps. Lawry scored 120 in the first innings, his only century of the tour. Australia needed to bat for only two hours on the final day to salvage a draw, but a collapse had them eight down with an hour left with Lawry still at the crease. Gleeson came out to bat and talked with both umpires at length before taking guard; he later claimed to teammates that he had threatened to hit the umpires in the head if they gave him out. Gleeson then padded every ball away, but every leg before wicket appeal was rejected. In an attempt to waste time, Lawry pulled away from the wicket when a woman in a colourful sari walked into front of the sightscreen, leading to allegations that he had insulted Indian womanhood. In any case, the crowd expressed dismay at the Australian tactics by rioting and throwing rocks at the players. The match ended early and Australia avoided being the first international team to lose to an Indian zone.
Following the match, many former Australian players called for the tour to be abandoned, citing the safety of the team. Nevertheless, the series continued and Lawry's men received a positive welcome upon arrival for the Fifth Test in Madras. They won the match in just over three days by 77 runs to clinch the series 3–1, but Lawry's team left India with Australia's reputation severely dented. Perhaps as a result of the controversy, Lawry could only manage 239 runs at 34.14 for the series. On reflection, Lawry stated "It was the toughest tour I've ever been on. There were very pleasant memories on the field, but very unpleasant ones from the accommodation, the type of travel, the food we were getting and lack of support we were getting from the board."
Following the tour, Lawry wrote a series of newspaper articles that criticised the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and their treatment of the Australian team. The BCCI complained to the Australian Board of Control, objecting to Lawry's "exaggerated and baseless" statements. The ABC replied to express "appreciation at the high level of hospitality and interested exhibited by Indian cricket authorities and the public". Lawry's official report to the board criticised the level of security and insurance for the players.
Lawry's men left directly for South Africa. Already tired, they confronted fast and bouncy pitches in contrast to low, slow and dusty spinning pitches in India. Upon arrival, Lawry declared Ian Chappell to be the best batsman in the world, something that would come back to haunt him.
After two weeks of preparation, they fell to a 170-run loss in the First Test in Cape Town, with Lawry giving finger gestures to the crowd and continuously arguing with the umpires. Lawry scored 83 in the second innings, which was to be the highest Australian score for the series, an indication of his team's lack of batting form. At the end of match, angered by officiating that he considered to be unacceptable, Lawry refused to accept a presentation by the two umpires. The series moved on to Kingsmead at Durban. Host captain Ali Bacher outwitted Lawry by persuading the Australian skipper to toss long before the start of play. Bacher won the toss and decided—against conventional wisdom—to bat first on a green pitch. Immediately after, ground staff ran onto the field and cut off all the grass, thereby giving the South African batsmen the advantage. Knowing the rules in greater detail, Bacher had tricked Lawry. The laws of cricket allowed for the wicket to be mown up to half an hour before the start of play, so Bacher had talked Lawry in tossing early so that he could change the pitch condition to advantage his team. Australia fell to its first innings defeat in four years as South Africa took a 2–0 lead. The last two Tests brought no respite, as South Africa registered two large victories by 307 and 323 runs respectively. Bacher's side, which was regarded as one of the finest in Test history, had inflicted the heaviest Test series defeat in Australian cricket history.
In the four Tests, sixteen catches were dropped, with around 60 dropped in a total of 12 first-class matches, while the tired pace spearhead Graham McKenzie took 1/333 and was thought he suffering hepatitis. Behind the scenes, the South African Cricket Board approached the Australian Cricket Board attempting to organise a Fifth Test. The players were unreceptive to this after spending five months overseas in what was then an amateur sport. The proposed extra match fell through after a pay standoff led behind the scenes by Ian Chappell, later to spearhead the breakaway World Series Cricket (WSC), which offered players substantial remuneration. The dispute was the genesis of WSC, and on the team's return to Australia, Lawry sent the Board a letter expressing player grievances. According to Chappell, "That was the end of Lawry as captain of Australia. Then it was just a matter of finding any excuse to get rid of him." Lawry was largely ineffective, with 193 runs at 24.13 with only one half century in the First Test. Apart from media criticism of the team's performances, Lawry was also slated for refusing to make a speech at the end of the series and refusing a gift from an umpire at the end of the Fourth Test.
The 1970–71 home series against England was the longest in Test history, with seven Tests scheduled. Lawry was to bow out of international cricket in one of the most acrimonious series in Test history. Lawry had gone through a difficult phase on the previous tour, with only 432 runs at 28.80 in nine Tests on the tour. With Australia losing, and as a non-smoker and non-drinker, he became more distant from his own team. Lawry had been under pressure after a highly critical report by team manager Fred Bennett. Australia went to the series with confidence after the tourists were unable to win any of their four opening tour matches.
During the series, Lawry increasingly came under criticism for some uninspiring leadership marked by a safety-at-all-costs strategy. The First Test in Brisbane was drawn after both teams had passed 400 in the first innings, but not before Lawry had top-scored with 84 in the second innings. The Second Test was drawn and the Third Test was washed out without a ball being bowled due to rain. In response to the this, a Seventh Test was scheduled and the first-ever One Day International was schedule. Australia won the inaugural match by five wickets with five overs to spare.
In the Fourth Test at Sydney, England took a series lead with a 299-run win after setting Australia 415 for victory. Lawry's critics became more vocal, despite a defiant unbeaten 60 carrying his bat as Australia fell for 116 in the second innings. It was England's largest victory in terms of runs over Australia for 34 years. His own batting saw him described by Ian Wooldridge as "a corpse with pads on". According to Ray Robinson, Lawry "appeared to be expecting the worst and getting it often enough to expect more of the same". The selectors responded by axing both of Australia's frontline pace duo of McKenzie and Connolly for the Fifth Test.
Lawry had batted for more than 24 hours in the series, averaging around 13 runs an hour. In addition, he declared in the Fifth Test with Rod Marsh within eight runs of a maiden Test century. Australia continued to play defensively and after a two further draws in the Fifth and Sixth Tests, Australia needed a win to draw the series and retain the Ashes.
With Lawry's defensive leadership under heavy fire, and he was dropped along with three other players, becoming the first Australian captain to be dropped in the middle of a series. He had scored 324 runs at 40.50 with three half centuries during the series. He was not informed privately by the Board and only found out after his axing was made public. Two days earlier, after lengthy discussion, the ACB had voted 7 6 to acknowledge and respond to Lawry's letter following the South African tour, although their reply did not address Lawry's concerns. Chappell condemned the Board's actions as "unbelievable". Victorian and Australian teammate Paul Sheahan said "The fact that no-one had the courage to tell him he was to lose his job as Australian captain was disgraceful." Lawry was publicly dignified, stating "I hadn't been playing well in that series and I had no compassion when I was dropping players as a selector." Australia went on to lose the final Test and the series 2–0.
Lawry was not recalled for the 1972 tour of England and in his absence, Australia was unable to find a reliable opening partnership. Australia's opening stand exceeded 24 only once in the Test series.